Author's Note: I have been working on this for a bloody long time, after suddenly becoming overwhelmingly interested in Bellatrix as a character. I want to know why she became a Death Eater, what exactly the nature of her relationship with Voldemort was, why she was so devoted to him, and why she ended up married to Rodolphus Lestrange. I thought the best way to do this was through writing a fic about her! It will be LV/BL, there will be smut, and it will be quite long. I would really appreciate some kind of feedback - whether it's about the fic itself, or just your ideas on the enigma that is Bellatrix Lestrange! Many thanks, and onto the first chapter! :)

There are twenty years to go,
a golden age I know.
But all will pass, will end to fast, you know.
There are twenty years to go,
and many friends I hope,
though some may hold the rose, some hold the rope.
(Twenty Years, Placebo)

June 1972.

The grandfather clock in the room ticked lazily, outside the gentle summer breeze rustled through the trees, and from the drawing room came the sound of the piano tinkling; it was no doubt Andromeda, whiling away the afternoon. Bellatrix sat on one of the stiff wooden chairs in the conservatory, a book propped in her lap and a pot of steaming tea stood on the small table to her right. But her eyes were not focused upon that ridiculous wizarding romance, nor was she listening to any of the noises around her. She simply watched the field of lavender in the distance, as the colourful plants swayed in the breeze, rippling like a beautiful piece of silk. She gave a sigh and snapped the book shut, placing it on the floor and resting her black boots atop it. The melody of the piano continued, as did the ticking of the clock, but still she remained staring at the distance.

She gave a sigh as a wasp flew in through the open French doors, before circling the teapot and the plate of buttered muffins. Bellatrix listened to it for a moment, the buzzing only contributing to the symphony of that summer's day, until she slowly picked up her wand from the table and gave it a delicate flick. The wasp was suspended in mid-air, as she slowly turned to look at it, reaching over and grasping it lightly between two red-painted fingernails. Slowly and carefully, she rolled her fingers so that the wasp rested on the pad of her thumb and, with a slight wince at the shock of the sting, she squashed the insect between her fingers. The door opened as she delicately wiped her fingers on the napkin that also rested on the plate, and turned to see that Narcissa had entered the room. The perfectly rounded nose of her little sister wrinkled at the sight of what her sister had just done, as she walked further into the room and perched on the edge of the seat opposite Bellatrix.

"That is disgusting, you know, Bella." She said rather haughtily, to which Bellatrix responded with a small quirk of her lips.

"I find it quite the contrary. I think it is beautiful to watch as, one minute, something is quite alive, but the next it is decidedly dead."

"Don't you feel any guilt that you brought about that poor creature's death in that way?"

"Not at all. The fact that I caused its death renders it more beautiful still."

Bellatrix was twenty one – in fact, it was her birthday that very day. As was the custom in her family, she had received no gifts and no mention was made of the occasion at all, for the real celebration would take place the following evening. All of pureblood society had been invited to her father's estate in Kent for the occasion, with particular emphasis placed on the young men of their acquaintance. Druella Black had decided that her eldest daughter had been out of Hogwarts for too long, and it was shameful that she had not yet secured herself a husband – that was, Bellatrix's parents hoped, to be swiftly rectified after the party. But they did not seem to understand that their daughter had no desire to be married, to anyone, ever. Not even if he had scored the best marks in his Potions N.E.W.T or if his family owned three different estates around Europe. Bellatrix had never met any man who she would find it acceptable to be married to; they were all ridiculous, so spineless and simpering. She would never be like her sisters – not like Andromeda with a different boyfriend every week or Narcissa who, although only seventeen, was already eagerly anticipating the day that she became engaged.

Narcissa gave a sigh and stood up, and Bellatrix watched as she walked gracefully around the circular room. There had been times when, only briefly, Bellatrix had felt jealous of Narcissa's appearance. She was blonde and almost angelic, always so carefree and nonchalant about the world. Bellatrix had never felt either of those things; she had only ever felt an overwhelming sense of disappointment. Her younger sister began to toy with one of the lilies that stood in a vase by the door, and gave another sigh, before looking at Bellatrix slyly.

" you know if Lucius Malfoy has been invited to the party?"

"I doubt it. You must remember that this is the pureblood equivalent of a meat market, Cissy, but only the very best buyers have been invited. An eighteen year old nitwit isn't going to make me a suitable husband, is he? So no, I daresay he won't be there." Narcissa pouted moodily.

"It's terribly unfair. I want a party for me; I want mama and papa to invite all of the men that I might marry. Then Lucius would be asked here, and I could dance with him all night and nobody would care a fig."

"No doubt mama and papa shall do just that...when you too turn twenty one, if you haven't already captured that poor Malfoy beggar and forced him to marry you before then, of course."

The door opened once more, and Andromeda entered the room. Unlike Narcissa, she did not enter the room fully, but simply hovered by the doorway. Narcissa rolled her eyes as acknowledgement of her sister's presence, and Bellatrix simply sneered.

"What do you want?" Narcissa asked bluntly.

"Papa wishes to speak to you in his study, Bella." She said haughtily. "He says it is urgent, and you must come at once."

Bellatrix stood slowly and smoothed down her robes, towering over both of her sisters. As she left the room she gave a discrete flick of her wand, and walked the length of the corridor to her father's study with a smirk at the distant sound of Andromeda's pain. When she approached the door to the study, it opened by itself and she stepped into the seldom-visited room. Her father stood at the window looking, as she had done, out towards the lavender fields. Bellatrix stood still in the centre of the room until he spoke to her.

"Tell me, Bellatrix, do you know of the name Lord Voldemort?"

"Yes, papa, but only a little. Only what I have heard through gossip and rumour."

"When I was at Hogwarts, there was a boy in all of my classes, who shared my dormitory. His name was Tom Riddle, and you knew as soon as you met him that he would one day be a great and powerful man." He hesitated for a moment. "That boy now styles himself as Lord Voldemort and, after spending the past twenty years travelling the world, he looks set to become the most potent and dangerous wizard that has ever lived."

"I don't understand, papa, why you are telling me this."

At long last he turned to face her, his thick brows were furrowed and the look of concern was evident on his face. Bellatrix had never seen her father look that way, and it sent a shiver through her that was a mixture of concern and excitement.

"He is coming here, tomorrow night. For that reason, I...I have been forced to cancel the party. I hope you are not too aggrieved by this; the family is to dine with the Dark Lord instead."

Bellatrix licked her lips.

"I am a little disappointed, papa." She lied. "But I understand."

"Good. Inform your sisters. You are dismissed."

Bellatrix returned to the conservatory, and opened the door to find Andromeda crouched on the floor with tears streaming down her cheeks and Narcissa making pitiful efforts in an attempt to comfort her. Bellatrix rolled her eyes and waved her wand, removing the hex, as she sat down on her seat again. Narcissa rushed over to join her, kneeling on the floor and resting her arms on Bellatrix's lap.

"What did papa say? What happened?"

"My party has been cancelled." Bellatrix stated.

"But why? That's terribly unfair! If I were you, I would be crying and making such a fuss."

"Papa wouldn't do such a thing without good reason." Andromeda added bitterly. "You must have done something to deserve it."

"Actually, I have done nothing to warrant a punishment. Lord Voldemort, or the Dark Lord as papa referred to him, is to dine with us tomorrow evening instead." Narcissa's eyes widened, and she gave a small laugh.

"Oh, Lucius shall be terribly envious. He and his silly friends say that they're going to join his ranks when they finish Hogwarts, become one of his followers – whatever that means!"

"It isn't something to envy." Andromeda retorted. "Don't either of you know anything about him? They say he is a master of the Dark Arts, that he has done terrible things that don't bear thinking about, never mind saying them aloud. Apparently, he calls his followers Death Eaters." Andromeda shuddered and Narcissa gave a nervous giggle, but Bellatrix remained impassive.

"He seems interesting." She said quietly. "Papa seemed almost frightened of him – he must be something special if he has the ability to scare even Cygnus Black."

"I don't think I want to sit at a table with this man, and pretend as if we're in polite company." Andromeda hissed.

"Well you don't have a choice, do you?" Bellatrix retorted, turning to look at her sister and raising an eyebrow. "For he shall be arriving tomorrow night."

The next evening, Bellatrix sat in front of the mirror in her bedroom and inspected her reflection. She knew that she was by no means what one would describe as being pretty. Her eyes were too heavy, her lips too full and, no matter how hard mama tried, her hair was wild and untameable. Much, her mother would also say, like Bellatrix herself. She wore a dress of white lace that had been chosen for her for the party; she is pure, innocent, virginal, ripe for the picking...that's what it announced to the world. Bellatrix gave a sigh and picked up the brush, sweeping a thin sheen of pink blusher to the apples of her cheeks. But, no matter how many different types of cosmetics she applied to her face, her sisters always bemoaned that she was too pale. Bellatrix preferred it that way – she had no desire to become a painted doll. A knock on the door announced that her sisters and mother were waiting outside. It was time to greet their guest.

The dining room was finely decorated with lilies and dozens of candles, and even Bellatrix could not prevent a smile at the sight of such a beautiful room. The house elf directed them to their seats, and Bellatrix felt her stomach flip as she realised that there was an empty seat to her right, opposite her mother.

"Shall Lord Voldemort sit beside me?" She hissed at the house elf, who whimpered slightly.

"Yes, Miss Bellatrix, yes he shall." She smirked triumphantly at her sisters, but Narcissa was too busy looking behind her at the door through which he would no doubt enter, and Andromeda simply sneered.

At that moment the door opened, and Cygnus Black entered the room with Lord Voldemort behind him. Bellatrix bit her lip as she watched the stranger approach the dining table. She had not really formed an opinion of how she thought he might look, but she was a little taken aback by his appearance. In a rare moment of honesty, her mother had told her that she had found Tom Riddle quite handsome at Hogwarts, that all the girls had. Bellatrix supposed that she could certainly envisage that he had once been so, but he was certainly not now; his eyes seemed sunken, his cheeks hollow, and his skin almost deathly pale. But he was tall, his posture firm, and Bellatrix would have described his as striking. She jumped a little when he turned his head to look at her, and saw that his eyes were a dark brown; she had, rather ridiculously, been expecting something more shocking, like emerald green or sapphire red...

He stood behind the seat next to her and, with a bow from her father, they all sat down. Bellatrix waited tensely for some form of introduction to be made, but only felt disappointment as he turned away from her and began a hushed conversation with her father. The rest of the meal passed that way, her mother making lazy conversation with the girls as Cygnus and Lord Voldemort whispered about things that were evidently too private to be made known to the rest of the party. Bellatrix finished her desert of crème brulée with a satisfied sigh, and put down her spoon with a strong desire that the meal would end and she could go elsewhere in the house to read. What she had imagined to be an interesting first introduction to the supposed most powerful man in the world had simply been, well, disappointing. Suddenly, however, she watched out of the corner of her eye as Lord Voldemort picked up his wine glass and tapped it with the edge of his spoon. He stood to his feet.

"I am aware that my presence here has meant the ruin of young Miss Bellatrix Black's birthday celebrations, and for that I wish to make amends. Shall we raise our glasses in a toast to Bellatrix? Happy birthday." He lifted his glass, before taking a sip, and the rest of the family did the same. Bellatrix had never been inclined towards girlish blushing, but she felt her cheeks burning red, and was aware that the flush extended down her neck. When he sat down he turned to face her, and Bellatrix licked her lips nervously. She could feel the eyes of her family fixed upon her as the Dark Lord produced a long and narrow green box. "This is a further token of apology and congratulations."

Bellatrix took the box from him and, willing her hands to stop shaking, carefully untied the silver ribbon that was tied around it. Her mother let out a small gasp when she removed the lid, revealing the most beautiful piece of jewellery that Bellatrix had ever seen. It was a plain silver chain, but at the bottom was a skull made entirely of small emeralds, with a winding snake erupting from its open mouth. She tentatively reached out her index finger and stroked the surface of the skull, enjoying the feel of the bumps beneath the pad of her fingertip.

"Thank you." She said quietly, turning her head slightly to look at him. "It is beautiful."

"You are very generous, my Lord." Her father said, bowing his head slightly.

"You have shown a great honour to our daughter." Her mother added.

After dinner, they did not conform to the usual custom of separating for tea or brandy. Instead, they all retired together to the drawing room, where Andromeda took her usual seat at the piano, and everyone else was left to make idle small-talk. Bellatrix opened the window slightly and sat on the windowsill, closing her eyes and feeling the cool breeze brush across her face and ruffle her hair. She was lost in her own thoughts, until someone cleared their throat. She jumped a little and opened her eyes, turning to see Lord Voldemort standing by her. She licked her lips nervously as he smirked down at her.

"My apologies, Bellatrix, for startling you. I am often told that I approach too quietly, that I catch people unaware." She did not know what to say, and so simply remained silent. This did not seem to bother Lord Voldemort, for he continued speaking. "So you are twenty one, Bellatrix? Young people such as yourself usually have a head full of schemes for the future. May I be so bold as to ask what yours are?"

"I have none." She answered frankly. "What is the point, when my parents intend to have me marry some bumbling idiot and then spend the rest of my life having babies and indulging the little brats?"

Bellatrix felt her heart soar when he laughed; a true, honest laugh at something she had said. She was uncertain as to why, but she felt it most important that she impress this man. If her father hadn't already told her that he was powerful, Bellatrix was certain she would be able to tell anyway. You could feel it radiating from him, filling the very room. Bellatrix was sure that he could destroy the drawing room, the whole house maybe, with the tiniest flick of his wand. The very idea almost took her breath away.

"I have never been fond of the idea of marriage myself." Lord Voldemort replied, looking at her carefully. "But then, I am lucky to have never been under the thumb of overbearing parents. Your sisters, may I note, do not seem so disenchanted with the idea."

"No, but I daresay that neither of them have the mind or the soul to desire anything other than what they have had presented to them on a silver platter." A silence fell between them, and Bellatrix was acutely aware that he was inspecting her closely; what he was looking for, she could not be certain, but he narrowed his eyes as if he had found it.

"Your father is a stubborn man, Bellatrix, but I need someone like him to assist me. Do you think you would be able to persuade him?"

"Papa...Papa is not a man to be persuaded, especially not by his daughter." His dark eyes met hers and, for one moment, Bellatrix was certain that they had flashed red. But the moment had passed, and she told herself to stop being ridiculous.

"I had thought as much." Voldemort gave her a predatory smirk. "But what of you, Bellatrix? Do you think that you could be persuaded?"

Bellatrix felt as if she would never move again, as if she were cursed to remain frozen in that one posture for the rest of her life. She could feel her hands trembling, and felt an overwhelming sense of embarrassment wash over her. She knew that he could sense what he was doing to her, that he maybe had even intended to cause this.

"Papa would...disapprove." She muttered. He gave a bitter laugh, before leaning close to her, so that it face was but inches from hers.

"And do you always do what mama and papa say, Bella?"

Almost as soon as he had spoken, he straightened up again and Bellatrix realised that he was holding the box containing the necklace. She could see her mother and father watching her from across the room, frozen just as she was; Narcissa watched too, a look of envy on her face, but Andromeda looked as if she wanted to flee. Lord Voldemort opened the box and slowly removed the necklace, holding it up for a moment so that the emeralds glittered in the candlelight. He kept his eyes fixed on hers as he leant forwards and fastened the necklace around her neck, dragging his hands across it and letting them rest there for a moment, as if he was about to strangle her. After a moment that felt like forever to Bellatrix, he let go and turned swiftly on his heels, giving a small bow to her father and mother before leaving the room entirely. Even though he had gone, his presence was still very much felt in the room, it was almost tangible, and the necklace weighed heavily around Bellatrix's neck, brushing against the pale skin of her throat as if he had burned the very flesh of it.